What would the world be like without art?

This nonverbal means of expression and communication promotes happiness, relaxation, sense of self and cognitive reasoning. Business owner and artist Michele Tabor Kimbrough is making a significant contribution to this cause despite Hurricane Michael removing the roof from her studio.

According to Michele, the Art Factory Gallery opened their doors two weeks ago by appointment only. “We’ve been very fortunate that we have only lost a couple of art pieces” explained Michele. The storm interrupted business, but when people view something as special and different, a strong and reputable customer base is established.

Michele was born in Tampa and grew up traveling within the United States and abroad with her father in the military. During these years she loved drawing. After high school Michele attended Pensacola Community College to become a dental assistance. She went on to study Interdisciplinary Humanities while also serving in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of West Florida. “I thought I wanted to be a dentist,” she explained, “but the Dean of the College saw that I had an eclectic personality and encouraged me to pursue humanities.”

After graduation Michele decided to attend Army flight school. Not only was she a pilot, but she was also an instructor and a mom. During a period of downsizing, many were paid to leave the military. So, Michele left military life and worked for Household International, which she remembers to be important for her personal and professional growth. Later, she went to work for US Airways as a Dash Eight Pilot flying Twin Engine Turboprop, 37 passenger planes from Tallahassee to Charlotte. However, her life changed dramatically after Sept. 11, 2001, when more than 5,000 pilots in the industry were laid off. During this transition period Michele worked as a substitute teacher in Malone and a classroom flight instructor at Fort Rucker.

This was also a time for Michele to focus more of her time on art. “I had to marry Art to be able practice art fulltime,” she explained. One does not have to talk with Michele long to see how much she loves both. In 2014, Michele and Art purchased the building located at 4402 Lafayette Street and the grand opening for the Art Factory was in April the following year. “The business started as a frame shop and art gallery,” Art clarified, “but as Michele wanted to do more of her own work and compete, she decided to go to appointment only in June 2018.” This move not only allowed Michele to have more control over her schedule, it also doubled business.

Michele’s art can be seen in museums around the country. She has competed with national and international artists. “With every piece my skill level improves,” Michele explained. Her current body of work includes more than 200 pieces, much of which is local imagery such as parades, beauty queens and historical homes. She has been commissioned many times to paint or draw in oils and pencils. One of Michele’s favorite pieces is “Queen Agnes” which is part of her Cruise and Carnival Series. She also enjoys painting aviation and patriotic pieces, with which she has won many awards. In 2014 Michel won Best Watercolor for “Rotor Check” by the American Society of Aviation Artists. The painting hung in the Baltimore airport for six months.

The Art Factory Gallery is open by appointment only Monday through Saturday. In January, Michele will restart art classes for ages 9 to adult on Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Classes span from beginners to advanced, and feature drawing, watercolor and acrylic techniques. “I can teach anyone with a desire,” Michele added. As for future plans Michele continued, “I just created a website to sell original and prints around the world and I would love to have a show, possibly in the spring of 2019.” Michele and Art share three sons and six grandchildren.

What a wonderful business to have in downtown Marianna! To learn more, call Michele at 850-526-1930 or visit www.TheArtFactory.gallery or www.MicheleTaborKimbrough.art. Visit the City of Marianna’s website at http://www.mariannafl.city/335/New-Businesses-and-Other-Community-News to learn more about new and existing businesses. Shop locally and support Marianna businesses.

Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.

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